Empty seats at Gubernatorial Candidate Forum
Gubernatorial candidates Fred DuVal, Barry Hess and John Mealer answer questions during the Gubernatorial Candidate Forum at Centennial Hall on Sunday. Education was a huge focus during the candidate forum.
There were many empty seats in Centennial Hall during the Gubernatorial Candidates Forum as Arizona candidates discussed their ideas on Arizona governance before the midterm elections this November.
This was the kick-off event for the year-long ASUA “Our Voice, Our Vote” campaign. Candidates present included Libertarian candidate Barry Hess, Democratic candidate Fred DuVal and Americans Elect candidate John Mealer. Doug Ducey, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, was not in attendance at the forum. He declined the invitation from the Associated Students of the University of Arizona due to “scheduling conflicts,” according to ASUA President Issac Ortega. His absence was apparent to all candidates.
The gubernatorial candidates spoke extensively on state issues, including how to help education in Arizona, fix issues regarding the border in Southern Arizona, and mend the economic difficulties the state has been dealing with. Additionally, they gave their opinions on legalizing cannabis and hemp use in Arizona.
Candidates each got a 90-second opening statement, one minute to answer questions, one minute to answer follow-up questions and a 90-second closing statement. Lorraine Rivera, producer and host of Arizona Week at Arizona Public Media, co-moderated the debate with Joey Fisher, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wildcat.
Before the debate officially began, technical difficulties occurred.
“While we’re waiting, hashtag, ‘Dondé está Ducey?’ Stream that,” Hess said. The crowd laughed in response; “dondé está” means “where is” in Spanish.
Some questions to the three candidates were submitted by UA students via ASUA’s Twitter and Facebook page using the hashtag #OurVoiceOurVote.
DuVal made it apparent that he and Ducey have different views on the future of education in the state and fixing the education system in Arizona.
DuVal is a Tucson native and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents. He gave thanks to Mealer and Hess, who is running for governor for the fourth time, for attending.
“I want to thank John and Barry for being here and recognizing how important Pima County and Tucson is to our state,” DuVal said. “I wish Doug felt the same way.”
While Mealer and Hess said that they do support education, DuVal talked about the idea the most during the forum.
“We need to stop the cuts on education,” DuVal said, “and if I were governor, I would immediately veto any budget that cuts another dime, another nickel, another penny from public education. Doug disagrees with that. Doug will cut schools deeper. I say it’s time to start funding our schools now.”
Hess said he believes that he will bring Arizona a government that treats everybody as an equal human being, and that he will balance the state budget from its $1 million deficit, according to Rivera, by eliminating the income tax and going into a transactional tax system.
Mealer said that working to legalize the cannabis and hemp industry will get Arizona out of it’s economic slump.
“Hemp is a multi-trillion dollar industry, if you look at the scope of what it will bring,” Mealer said. “It will bring in new business and an entire new series of talents.”
DuVal said that the economic issue all goes back to ensuring education for all Arizonans.
“Arizona businesses ask for two things when trying to grow a business,” DuVal said. “Having a workforce available, skilled and capable of what we need in order to perform and grow. Secondly, [ensuring] that employees have good schools to go to. Our ability to grow jobs in the future requires us to get back into the business of investing in our children’s education — so that we have the workforces out and growth for the economy of the future to grow us out of the deficit.”
Hess said that education is taking up too much of Arizona’s budget, almost 50 percent.
“We can’t keep doing this,” DuVal said. “It’s the single biggest difference between Doug and I. I think it’s an unfortunate shame that he does not want to debate these issues in Pima county. We have got to make the investment in our schools and teachers in order to create economic growth and the jobs that we want for our future.”
Follow Adriana Espinosa on Twitter @adrianaespi7